can best be measured; the media can, in turn, communicate those messages to the public. An attempt should also be made through the media and other avenues for communication with the public to foster understanding of basic principles of appropriate test interpretation and use. Assessment consumers, including the public, should understand that no test is a perfect measure, that more valid decisions are based on multiple indicators, and that the items on a particular assessment are only a sample from the larger domain of knowledge and skill identified as the targets of learning. As part of the design and delivery of such programs, research needs to be conducted on the public’s understanding of critical issues in assessment and the most effective ways to communicate outcomes from educational assessment.


As noted at the beginning of this report, educational assessment is an integral part of the quest for improved education. Through assessment, education stakeholders seek to determine how well students are learning and whether students and institutions are progressing toward the goals that have been set for educational systems. The problem is that the vital purposes of informing and improving education through assessment are being served only partially by present assessment practices.

The principles and practices of educational assessment have changed over the last century, but not sufficiently to keep pace with the substantial developments that have accrued in the understanding of learning and its measurement. It is time to harness the scientific knowledge of cognition and measurement to guide the principles and practices of educational assessment. There is already a substantial knowledge base about what better assessment means, what it looks like, and principled ways that can be used to build and use it. That knowledge base needs to be put into widespread practice, as well as continually expanded.

Educators, the public, and particularly parents should not settle for impoverished assessment information. They should be well informed about criteria for meaningful and helpful assessment. To do justice to the students in our schools and to support their learning, we need to recognize that the process of appraising them fairly and effectively requires multiple measures constructed to high standards. Useful and meaningful evidence includes profiling of multiple elements of proficiency, with less emphasis on overall aggregate scores. A central theme of this report is that it is essential to assess diverse aspects of knowledge and competence, including how students understand and explain concepts, reason with what they know, solve problems, are aware of their states of knowing, and can self-regulate their learning and performance.

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